Get your gardens buzzing next spring by planting bee-friendly bulbs and spring bloomers this fall. Bumblebee queens, honey bees and solitary bees start emerging from their winter homes ready to feast on the landscape as early as March. Feed them from your garden by planting a mix of crocus, snow drops, Siberian squill, grape hyacinth, bluebells with spring flowering hellebores and primroses to ensure many sources of nectar.
Crocus and snow drops are a favorite gardener’s standby because they are some of the first spring flowering bulbs to arrive after the cold temperatures. When I see a snow drop in late winter, it lets me know the soil is warming and spring is coming. Both spring flowers do best in full sun to partial shade and look stunning when planted en masse.
Siberian squill easily naturalize and can be seen encroaching in people's lawns because they are so tough and hardy. They prefer partial shade to full sun and bloom in early spring before the trees leaf out. I have seen them naturalized in gardens and from a distance you see large drifts of blue.
Grape hyacinth is a showy fragrant blue and flowering bulb coveted by most bees. Each bulb produces around three flowering scapes that contain urn-shaped, tightly packed flowers. Grape hyacinths provide outstanding floral display when planted in drifts in partial shade to full sun.
Virginia bluebells produce many blue tubular flowers that should be included in any spring garden because they are easy to grow. They are a native wildflower that requires partial shade and rich organic soils. Visit Genevieve Green Gardens at Ewing Manor in March and April for a breath-taking display of these native treasures.
Hellebores bear beautiful cup-shaped flowers in late winter and early spring in hues of white, green, red and purple, resembling roses. Hellebores do best planted en masse and should be grown in partial shade. Most species are cold-hardy with semi-evergreen leaves but must not be allowed to get too dry. They will benefit by a top dressing of organic matter, but care must be taken when working with the plant because the sap is poisonous.
Spring primroses have been loved for years for their bright bold flowers, held above the rosette foliage in whorls. Primroses require partial shade and ample water. They can be short-lived but when planted en masse there is no other spring floral display that can rival them. I have seen them planted to mimic a meandering spring in a shaded area with lots of mature trees.
A bit of strategic planting this fall will not only give you early spring blooms but keep your garden buzzing with bees.